Diabetes and Rice Choice

Diabetes and Rice Choice: What is true for processed flour appears to be true for processed rice. Making it more refined makes it less nutritionally sound and more apt to induce weight gain as well as subsequent health issues such as diabetes.

Obviously family history, physical exercise and additional health factors will play into the potential for diabetes, but according to the British Medical Journal, “Rice has been a dietary staple in Asian cultures for centuries and is now very popular in the UK and other non-Asian countries. There are many types of rice, but one of the most basic distinctions-is it white or brown?-comes not from crop type but from how the rice is processed after harvest. Brown rice is partly milled, while white rice is heavily refined to strip away its outer bran and germ portions. This makes white rice cook faster, and some say taste better, but it also removes much of the nutritional value, leaving mainly the starchy, carbohydrate-rich interior.

“This difference has led researchers to wonder whether a person’s choice of white or brown rice might affect their risk of getting type 2 diabetes-a disease in which your diet can play a key role. If you have diabetes, your body can’t control how much glucose (sugar) is in your blood, so you end up with too much.”

Researchers discovered that white rice, central to Asian cooking, has been key to increased diabetes risks within those countries. The real question was whether a similar risk existed in American and European cultures that relied less on rice as a food staple. The British Medical Journal discovered, “People who ate five or more servings of white rice per week had a 17 percent higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those who ate less than one serving a month. In contrast, people who ate two or more servings of brown rice per week had an 11 percent lower risk than those who ate less than one serving a month.


“Based on these results, the researchers estimated that replacing 50 grams of white rice per day (around one-third of a serving) with an equal amount of brown rice would lower a person’s risk of type 2 diabetes by 16 percent.”

This study was conducted over a twenty-year period by researchers at Harvard University in Boston. The findings seem to suggest, “If you eat white rice several times a week, this study suggests that you may have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Switching to brown rice might lower your risk,” according to the British Medical Journal who also reported, “When rice is on the menu, consider opting for brown instead of white. Although we’re not yet certain how this might affect your risk of type 2 diabetes, we do know that brown rice is a healthier choice overall, as it is a better source of fibre, vitamins, and minerals. And, yes, some people even prefer its taste.”

What follows is a recipe from the Mayo Clinic for a diabetic meal including brown rice.

“Fried” brown rice

Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: approximately 10 minutes
Standing time: 7 minutes

Cooking spray
2 teaspoons reduced-calorie margarine
1/4 cup liquid egg substitute
1 chopped green onion
1 1/2 cups instant brown rice
1 1/2 cups 50% less sodium, fat-free chicken broth
1/2 cup frozen peas and carrots, unthawed (alternatively, unthawed frozen mixed vegetables can be used)

Coat a large, nonstick skillet with cooking spray; add margarine, and melt over medium heat. Add egg substitute and stir-fry until egg is set (like scrambled egg). Stir in onion, rice, broth, and peas and carrots; stir to mix. Bring mixture to a boil over high heat, cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir, and cover. Let stand 7 minutes, fluff with a fork, and serve.

Yield: 3 1/2 cups
Serving size: 1/2 cup

Nutrition Facts

Per Serving:
Calories: 98
Carbohydrate: 16 g
Protein: 4 g
Fat: 2 g
Saturated fat: <1 g
Sodium: 163 mg
Fiber: 1 g

Exchanges per serving: 1 starch, 1/2 fat
Carbohydrate choices: 1 (Source: Mayo Clinic)